February Wrap Up at The Educators' Spin On It

It's been a big "LEAP" for us this Year into this blogging adventure we call The Educators' Spin On It.  We want to extend a warm welcome to all of our newest Followers!  We also want to extend our gratitude to our continued followers!  We're so glad that you've joined us and love hearing from you.  Thank you so much for sharing our site with friends and families and most importantly your children.   

Here at The Educators' Spin On It we try our very best to Parent with Purpose.  We enjoy sharing "Our Spin" on things that we post each week.  As Educators and as Parents we're always looking for ways to make learning playful and playtime meaningful.  February was filled with heartfelt fun and learning.  Here's what we were up to! 

"Our Spin" of February at The Educators' Spin On It  
  1. Afterschool Express: Decorating for Valentine's Day
  2. Baby Time: Ideas for Creating and Storing Toy Stations
  3. Baby Time: My First Scribbles
  4. Bilingual Babies: Paper Bag Color Book
  5. Kids in the Garden: The Indoor Garden
  6. Little Hands That Cook with Books: Dairy Group~ Balanced Eating Series
  7. Tot school - Literacy Development
  8. Little Hands That Cook with Books: Grains Group~Balanced Eating Series
  9. Afterschool Express: Colorful Heart Fun
  10. Little Hands that Cook with Books: Heart Themed Resources
  11. The Learning Garden - How to Grow Potatoes
  12. Baby Time: Valentine's Day Activities
  13. Afterschool Express: President's Day
  14. Fancy Nancy Explorer Extraordinaire Book and Activites
  15. Little Hands that Cook with Books: Heart Healthy Fun
  16.  Baby Time: It's Not Just A Diaper Change
  17. Bilingual Babies: Family Book
  18. Tot School - toy organization at our house
  19. The Learning Garden - Starting Seeds Indoors
  20. Afterschool Express: On the Hunt for Spring

Our LOVE BOOKS and Activity Swap has come to an end.  Thank you so much for all who participated!  If you're interested in the Summer Book and Activity Swap just email us at theeducatorsspinonit@gmail.com.  Until then please share your Book and Activity Idea on our LOVE BOOK tab at the top of our pages or by clicking here!  There are already MANY Books and Activities listed for you to read and create with your child. 

Additional Resources from February
  1. Bilingual Babies - Finding Second Language Resources
  2. Gardening with Kids- The Heirloom Life Gardener Re...
  3. Top Ten Reasons I Love Sharing Valentine's Day with My Children
  4. Little Hands that Cook with Books: Dr Seuss
This is our assortment of activities that we enjoy sharing each week with you.

Did you MISS January's Wrap Up?  

Little Hands that Cook with Books and Dr. Seuss

We're joining to celebrate Dr. Seuss's Birthday and NEA's Read Across America Day! Here are some of our favorite's from Dr. Suess that we'll be including in our Little Hands that Cook with Books and Dr. Seuss this week. 


The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss are one of the first BIG books that your child will be able to read all by themselves as they become emergent readers.  It's a special moment when they realize they've read it ALL by themselves.  What a great way to celebrate than with a special Dr. Seuss inspired Snack. 

Here are a few suggestions for Dr. Seuss Themed Snacks

  • Dr. Seuss Cupcakes: Make blue frosting and add cracker fish to the top
  • One Fish Two Fish Jello:  Make Blue jello and add gummy fish to them  
  • Make your Own Fish Crackers: Make fish crackers and create your own Seuss Inspired story
  • The Cat and the Hat Hat : Attach red lifesaver gummies with white frosting to a round cookie or a rice cake with strawberry slices and cucumber slices or pattern bananas and strawberries to create a hat! 
  • Lorax Trees:  Attach cheese to pretzels sticks 

There are so many resources for finding ideas for Dr. Seuss activities for your child.  I've done searching for you to find some excellent resources for your child.  I've included Snack Ideas and Activity Ideas for your little ones.  Hope you enjoy and inspire them to become great thinkers and doers! 
  Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Dr. Seuss Snack Ideas

Dr. Seuss Virtual Book Club for Kids

Dr. Seuss Activities and Resources

Dr. Seuss Red Picture Frame Idea

We had so much fun with each of our children creating a Dr. Suess Moment with the red frame.  I encourage you to do this at home or school too.  The best part is you can use the frame for other holidays too including Valentine's Day, Christmas, Fourth of July or Back to School.  For more Dr. Seuss Activities visit the Dr. Seuss Virtual Book Club for Kids 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to amazon

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

- Dr. Seuss

Bilingual Babies - Finding Second Language Resources

I was recently asked where I find my resources that I use to teach our children Russian.  This is an excellent question and although I will tell you where to find resources to teach Russian as a second language, you can use these same ideas to find the language your family is learning!
1. In-laws and Friends - The first place I always start is by asking anyone who lives in Russia to send or bring us learning materials.  The things I ask for are
  • Traditional books, (not an English book translated into Russian, but a true Russian written book).
  • Talking books or books with a battery component
  • ABC puzzles and blocks
  • Kids workbooks and educational primers
  • Learning Posters
  • CD's and DVD's Sesame Street (Улица Сезам) is produced in many countries around the world and is an organization I would recommend looking into.  The show format is the same and they address age appropriate concepts, but videos do not just translate the USA version, rather are created specifically for that country.   These DVD's are not readily available due to cost (around $20 each), but my in-laws are able to pre-order them from one specific media store in their city.
Here is a short video about how I organize my book shelf to include these Russian books.

2.  Another way to get some of the above items are online stores such as Amazon.  This gets tricky with languages like Russian, because materials are not as readily available, but some products do exist.

3. You Tube - there are many videos available in other languages, but I strongly urge you to PREVIEW without children present.  Some of the content is not appropriate for children.  I have several videos on our playlist and will let the children watch them once in a while.  Here are some links to the Russian videos I may show my children.

We've even made our own You Tube videos, which brings me to the next way we get our learning resources!

4. Make your own.  We often find ourselves making the majority of our own learning materials. 
  • My husband translates books, magazines, and posters.  He just writes the Russian translation into the book using a permanent marker next to the words in English. Here are some more ideas!
  • He will also write a sentence on a piece of paper and let the children illustrate it to create our own simple posters. We have been talking about spring this week and each child told him what they liked to do outside in the spring.  It says, "I like to swing on the swing in spring,"  in Russian of course!  We then put these pictures on our fridge and re-visit them daily to give the children multiple exposures to the vocabulary. I may ask her to point to a specific word, read it to me, or tell me something else she likes to do in the spring.
  • I also make worksheets and easy reading books for the kids
    My most recent packet uses dot-markers to learn the Cyrillic Letters.  It is available for
    purchase at Teachers Notebook.
Both Kim and I are trying to parent with purpose.  We feel that early and continued exposure to another language is important for our children.  On many Monday's we will continue to bring you helpful tips, advice, and stories on our adventures raising biligual children.  Although I am teaching my children Russian and she is teaching her children Hindi, the tips, advice, and stories may inspire you to spend more time interacting with your children in the language your family chooses! 

Afterschool Express: On the Hunt for Spring

Grab your camera  and off we go! 

A new season is starting to sneak up on us... at least down here in the South. 

Teaching our children to become observers is a vital lesson in life.  We're going on a walk around our neighborhood to see if we can spot signs of Spring.  Do you see it yet in your neighborhood? 

Grass is turning green
Bushes are sprouting new leaves
Trees are blooming
Bushes are blooming
Tree are growing tiny leaves
Roses are growing red leaves
Seeds are starting to sprout in the garden.
Bird are making nest in the trees
Baby duckling have even arrived at the Duck Pond. 

Take your child on a nature walk and see what they can discover with their own observation skills.  Find a way to document this change with them over a time period.  Using a kid friendly camera from their view is fun.  We used this Hunt for Spring Checklist to write down what we saw.  Here are some of our favorites from our walks this week afterschool. 

This is what we saw on our walk to my sister in law's house... a Peach Tree

This is what we saw on our walk by the pond...ducklings

This is what we found in the back yard...a Strawberry Blossom 

We transplanted some strawberry plants and by the end of the week they had a blossom!  Time to make our Plant Labels for our Learning Garden.  We even followed Amanda's post about planting Potatoes, my daughter's class planted them too at school.  It will be fun to compare.  

Create a Spring Journal
Later in the week we would come home and write in a Spring Journal what we observed.  Observation is a great skill to use.  When creating your own Plant Journal, have  them illustrate it first , it will be fresh on their mind and in the camera for reference.  Then they can write about what they saw.  Encourage them to include details.  Go out a few days later and observe with them if things have changed. 

More Journal Ideas:
Make a spring collage out of pictures from magazines or real objects
Glue the discoveries you find onto a page and then attach the words. 
Younger children doing this activity can cut out and add spring words to their pictures.
Practice finding the beginning sounds of spring objects they draw.

Not quite ready to see outdoors changing yet? 
Start an indoor garden!  Don't forget Your Plant Journal!

Additional Resources for Spring
Julie from Just Playing Around has a Great Idea for Observing Spring with her children. 
Spring Treasure Box from Little Wonder Days
Sharing Birds with your Child 
First Day of Spring!  Share your Spring Photo on our facebook page
I wonder how spring looks in different parts of the world?

The Educators Spin On It
This week's party is hosted by Mama Smiles

The Afterschool Blog Hop is co-hosted by:

Come Join the Fun and Grab our Button!
Little Wonders' Days

It's Spring!  Let's Get Out into the Garden!  Here's our Kids in the Garden ideas 
Here's our  After School Activities and Adventures  
Tip Junkie handmade projects
We've linked up!  

The Learning Garden - Starting Seeds Indoors

I have never been very successful at starting seeds inside. As a matter of fact, I have tried unsuccessfully for 3 years to start tomatoes and peppers inside. Each year, I start the seeds and for one reason or another, end up buying transplants at the local Feed and Seed store. This year, I have received a Southern Small Garden Seed Bucket from Baker Creek Seeds to review for all of you and I am determined to have some healthy transplants for my garden this spring! Please note that I have no special training in gardening, but that I enjoy teaching my children about the world, having them learn about food and where it comes from, and being able to pick fresh produce to feed our family.

While we were living in an apartment, we belonged to a local organic crop share (CSA) Each week we picked up a bag of in-season produce that was grown by our farmers. We learned to cook with foods that we had never even considered before and our kids learned to like greens like Kale and Escarole. This Small Garden Bucket reminded me of why we joined the CSA. There are more than 15 types of vegetables and 30 varieties. It was full of seeds to plant and many of them are not ones that I would have selected based on their catalog description, therefor encouraging me to "plant outside my comfort zone" as one reviewer stated. I also purchased several seed packets of my own as well. There were some Russian Heirloom Varieties that I just couldn't resist trying!!!

I asked the staff at Baker Creek for their seed starting suggestions, this is what Kathy wrote to me;
"As for backyard garden tips: pay attention to shade and/or lack thereof when planting, keep seeds moist when sprouting, and then keep the soil moist but not overly wet. Be sure to thin the radishes after they come up so they will have room to grow. Thinned plants can be used in salads. Take lots of photos and keep a journal throughout the process. You should find planting instructions on the back of each seed packet. We wish you successful gardening. "

So today, I am going to try and limit myself to writing about my indoor starts, mainly tomatoes and peppers. I wrote a post about using seeds vs transplants here.  As you can see by the first picture, my seeds have sprouted - YIPEEE!!!! I planted them in re-used containers; ones from flats of flowers others in plastic strawberry containers.  I know they recommend using the seed starting soil, but that stuff is expensive, so I put garden soil in half of each little pot and then used the seed starting soil on the top.  As Kathy suggested, I kept the seeds moist.  As the seed packet explained they needed to be "surface sown," meaning planted on top of the dirt with little or no dirt covering them.  I thought this was unusual as I have always covered my seeds, but as I said before I have never been successful, so I was up for trying it!

I planted 2 seeds in each compartment and I will cut off the weaker looking plant.  Out of the 9 tomato varieties I planted, 8 had 100 percent germination rate.  Or so I thought.  Can you tell by the above picture that this orange and green variety had no seeds germinate?  I was SO disappointed.  Then, I looked at the cells next to it...

Yes, this is what happens when you garden with a 2 and 5 year old!  It will be a mystery of which it which!  

Now that I figured out that I can start the seeds, my problem is going to be making sure that they plants don't get "leggy."  I have them in the only Southern facing window in our house and they do get sun light.  It would be really cool to have a grow light, but they just are not in a small gardeners budget.  For the time being, my kids are having fun pretending to be the "wind" and blowing on the seedlings whenever they have the chance.  I'm trying to keep them moist and crossing my fingers for some healthy transplants!

If you are considering starting a garden (or if you already have one) I strongly urge you to check out the amazing selection of organic, no GMO, heirloom seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds!  Their shipping is reasonably (a flat rate) and their seed packets average around $2.00 each.  After placing my personal order, I had the seeds in my hands in 4 days, so they are fast too! You can't beat 100% germination either!

For more of our kids in the garden posts with ideas on how to use your garden as a learning garden, click here!

Toy Organization at Our House

The Playroom

I, Amanda,  like to think of my dining room, aka playroom, as our classroom.  I think about the things that I want my tot to interact with and learn about during his day and make sure that he has the space to do these things. (Don't worry, we still have a table and eat meals together as a family in our tiny breakfast nook area!)  Like Kim talked about here, using stations is a great way to stay organized. This month, I am focusing on reading, interacting with books, and pretend play. You can see that I have a kitchen station and a reading station set up in our playroom.  The shelf my husband built for our books lets each book sit facing towards the room.  It may not hold a lot of books, but the kids are more inclined to read them when they see the covers rather than the book's spine. For all the small kitchen related food and toys, I keep a basket near the kitchen.  We tried putting them back in the kitchen, but it wasn't working.  A basket to stuff the small items into is suiting our family much better. 

Toy Rotation: The kitchen toys rotate every other month.  Often, I will just add a new item.  This month, we took out some of the plastic dishes and replaced them with a set of Russian Folk Art Khokloma or Hochlama  for the kids to pretend with.  By adding just this one set of dishes, I can talk to my kids about Russian culture and food while introducing them to a new toy. Because they knew about the dishes background, they used more Russian while pretending!  (pretend play AND language learning!!!)  We will keep these dishes out until their interest in them fades. Yesterday morning, little fox was served brunch!
The books on the shelf also change monthly.  I did have Valentine's Day, Groundhogs' Day, Presidents' Day, and Chinese New Year books up, but just took them down this morning and set up a bunch of easy readers for the rest of the month.  I was ready for a change!  I usually try to theme my book sets and include a couple Russian books as well as mix fiction and non-fiction books too.  I have 2 large Tupperware bins filled with book sets.  I try to have one plastic bag of books for each month in these bins.  Some months will focus on a holiday, others will focus on a theme - like the Farm. We do not have a television, so the kids spend at least 1 hour reading each day.

My two year old's bedroom

We do not have a lot of storage space in our house, so I try to be organized with toys and learning materials.  In the ideal world, I would not have toys in the bedroom, but our house is small and there are not many other options.  So I try to keep it not too busy in the bedrooms.  (This does not always happen!)  I try to have a couple toy stations available for him to play with.  Using themed bins helps me (and him) to stay organized.  For one toy stations, I have bins at the end of his bed. 

Toy Rotation:  In the bins this month, I have a set of home-made Handwriting Without Tears wooden lines and curves for building letters in the blue bin, balls in the red bin, and vehicles in the green bin.  At the end of the month, I put these items into plastic bags and set out a different grouping of toys and educational materials. This limits the amount of toys available, improves interest, and encourages imagination during play. By keeping these items in bins, we can easily move the toy sets to different parts of the house and into the yard as well.
The set of containers below is also in my son's room.  Many of you may have a very similar one.  After years of teaching kindergarten, I have come to the realization that word and picture labels are the way to go with smaller items.  I took a picture of the item and put it into a Microsoft Word labels document using the template size for the labels I had and added words to describe the toy set. Even if the kids choose to take out all the toys, they know exactly where to put them back! It really does work!!!
Toy Rotation: Unfortunately, these labels are permanent.  I did label on bin a  "This week's lesson" and rotate the toys in this bin.  Right now there is a set of wooden blocks and string for beading activities.  The kids will go in phases using these bins.  I find that by rotating where I have the bins helps keep their interest high.  Sometimes I will bring this set of bins out to the playroom and exchange it for the book shelf or kitchen.  I also make sure to engage with the children during play and this can enhance and enrich how they play. 

How and where do you store your tots toys?  What ways do you encourage your children to play with the toys in new and different ways?  I'd love to hear your ideas!!!

For Tot School Activities Click Here! 

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